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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Through the Eyes

In my lingering brain slush, I've been spending good chunks of my writing time reading instead. Not good for productivity, but the novel's in a good place, length and plot-wise, so I'm not overly worried about it. Let's get back to the regular schedule with Workshop Wednesday, yes? Yes.

In my slush-brain reading, I've been working my way through Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, and whether you love or hate the series - I'm in the "love" camp - the interesting thing is the shift from Interview With the Vampire to The Vampire Lestat: notably, the difference in the way Louis sees Lestat, and the way Lestat actually is, in his own version of his history. And in the way of all great books, this difference instructs writers in the simple truth of properly fleshed-out characters: the reader's vision of a character is tainted by the eyes through which he or she is seen. Through the eyes of the story's other characters. Sometimes, it is only perspective that draws the line between protagonist and antagonist.

The best characters are human characters, ones who reflect all the many facets of human nature. Characters judge one another unfairly, sometimes too fairly, either tainted or blinded. They can be suspicious. They can just plain not understand or dislike one another. As authors, we have to understand how our characters might fit into certain social stereotypes in the eyes of others (readers or other characters). You could say Lisa was a hard bitch. You could say Layla was polite and anxious. You wouldn't be wrong...but you wouldn't have the whole story. Our other job as authors is to properly smash stereotypes to bits. We have to see our characters through society's cheap social filters, and understand them for the complicated, intelligent humans they truly are. And we have to take the reader's preconceived notions, and turn them on their ears as we paint them the true, hidden pictures of our characters - like telling Delta's story.

In Rice's works, you can read Louis's story and feel for him completely, then read Lestat's and realize you feel for him as well. And you can understand why they fail to understand one another. Dude, that's complicated. I think great writing is supposed to be. If art imitates life, I want it to imitate with all the best props and costumes, all the richness. Keeping in mind that your characters don't have to get along can really boost those character relationships to the next level of realism.

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